Gender Non-Conformity Beyond Narrative Prosthesis in Wilkie Collins's The Law and the Lady and Poor Miss Finch
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Of the writers who influenced sensation fiction in mid-nineteenth-century Britain, there are few who parallel Wilkie Collins in their commitment to quasi-realist presentations of disability in their narratives. In two of his novels—The Law and the Lady and Poor Miss Finch—disability is treated as a nexus point for gender nonconformity, containing subversive depictions of people with disabilities thriving in their respective social circles despite their marginalization and their subsequent deviation from idealized gender roles. Drawing mainly on the theoretical frameworks established by Tobin Siebers and Martha Stoddard Holmes, this thesis explores the narrative significance of superimposing queerness onto an already discomfiting body—the disabled body—in the context of mid-nineteenth century sensation fiction. Fundamentally, this thesis encourages a re-examination of Collins’s work, as the marginalized identities he centers may have influenced fiction and made space for later, bolder literary acknowledgements of figures who operate outside the physical norm.